The Leaders Playbook: “Be Prepared”, thinking about contingencies ahead of time.

Be Prepared” The Boy Scout of America Motto

Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the Boy Scouts of America

We choose how we respond to contingencies in life and leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing we have seen or handled in many years.  

These are historic and challenging times.  Much of our Nation is self-isolating and our healthcare system and economy are struggling under the weight and pressure.  

We all have a role to play, especially those leading organizations and more important households. 

This is a time for leaders, at work and at home. 

While always remaining frosty and calm, we should encourage our families, friends, and teammates to proactively think about what contingencies they might face and develop deliberate plans on how to handle them – before we have to potentially deal with them.  

A few examples we have been thinking through include: 

  • What are the symptoms of the virus?  Do I have the tools to potentially identify the virus?
  • If someone does get sick, where will I take them?  What is the phone number? Where is the nearest testing facility?
  • If someone does get sick, how will we handle quarantine?  At work? At home?
  • What supplies do we need and when can we get them?

There are many other contingencies that leaders should think about during this challenging time. The key is to sit down and think about what could happen in a calm and deliberate manner striving to “Be Prepared” for any contingency.  Trust me, thinking about contingencies ahead of them always pays off. Always.

Stay healthy my friends.

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: Stoic Virtues… Courage, Justice, Temperance, Wisdom

“If at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage… embrace it without reservation – it must be an extraordinary thing indeed”

                                                            Marcus Aurelius Meditations 3.6

Courage, Justice, Temperance, Wisdom are timeless virtues and thinking about leadership through the lens of these virtues has been a game-changer for me.

Making difficult decisions in the face of adversity (Courage), viewing situations with an honest lens, especially oneself and one’s many failings (Justice), while remembering to see things through other people’s perspectives (Wisdom), all while remembering to do all things moderation (Temperance) are incredible tools to help you through the toughest of times. 

History tells us that Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Cato, President Lincoln, and General Marshall all embraced these virtues and lived them in their day-to-day life.  Every day I deliberately try to lead using these virtues as well.  I hope you will too.

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer.  Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: Clear, concise, correct communications

“Communications: the imparting or exchanging of information or news.”

“It does not matter what you say, it only matters what people hear and see.”

                                                Frank Luntz from “Words that Work

Frank Luntz got this quote mostly right.  I have always inserted the words “and feel” to this quote.

As human beings, we rely on communications to connect with each other.  It comes in many forms but in the end, it’s about connecting at a deep enough level to engender trust and confidence in each other and to align our efforts against an issue, problem, or opportunity.  It is not a one-way flow of information.  That’s transmitting.

In my opinion, perhaps the most important skill a leader must have is the ability to clearly and effectively communicate at multiple levels.  Clear, concise, correct, and meaningful communications is something that is absolutely critical to being able to lead people successfully – and we all need to work at it. 

Sound communication is a perishable skill.  I know I will always strive to improve my verbal communications, my written communications (why I write), my non-verbal communications, and my listening skills. 

Great communicators listen well, and pass information which informs, inspires, and connects people and teams to do incredible things together.  So, commit today to do some thinking about how you are going to improve as a communicator.

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

Perfect Courage… laying your life down for your Brothers

Tonight, I raise a toast and remember.

18 years ago at 04:57 local time on March 4th, 2002 in the mountains of Afghanistan USAF MSgt John Chapman began the longest and most important walk of his life. 

That morning “Chappie” alongside USN SEAL PO1 Neal Roberts and five other heroic Americans gave their lives for our freedom.  Many others were wounded in action.

Never in the history of warfare has a Medal of Honor action been captured on film.  I hope you will watch this and remember our Fallen today and those that gave it all for our Freedom. 

You can learn more about John here.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: Developing winning, losing, and equal cues.

For some, air to air combat (e.g. “dogfighting”) can be a high-speed, high-stress evolution.  In flying fighters, our goal is to always keep our cool, “stay frosty” (See my previous blog post), and work the problem before us in an antiseptic, unemotional fashion in order to win every time. 

Coming off the Tanker. Copyright by Chris Lofting

As an instructor pilot, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching flight leads and mission commanders about leading in combat.  One of the early things I spend time with them thinking about is the need to develop a set of cues that will help them quickly determine if they are winning, equal, or losing against the enemy. 

These cues can come from a variety of sources including the radio, our geographical location, our altitude, how many enemy airplanes we have shot down, how many we have lost, how many weapons we have remaining, etc.  The sources of information are many. 

The key is that we are mentally thinking about these cues and the context in which we are processing this information, which allows us to quickly understand how the fight is going and make adjustments on the fly. 

I teach the same approach when I’m talking to young leaders regardless of their industry.  I stress to them that regardless of who or what you are leading, whether it’s a flight of F-16s, a Special Forces Team, or a group of Accountants or Consultants, leaders should develop a set of winning, losing, and equal cues to help them be their most effective.

What are yours?

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: Decision Timing

“Do I need to make a decision on this right now?”

This seemingly simple question is one of the most important ones I ask myself and my team every day.  “When” we choose to make decisions can have as much impact on the decision itself, yet this timing is an often-overlooked element of decision making.

In reality, few decisions, other than those decisions that could impact lives, need to be made immediately. 

Our society has changed.  With the advent of mobile email, text messaging, and the 24/7 news cycle, we are constantly being bombarded with information, and along with that oftentimes comes an expectation that we will make quicker decisions in order to “keep things moving”. 

In my experience, this is not true.  Most times we need to slow down our decision-making timelines and gain as much understanding as possible of the situation before making critical decisions.  Smart evaluation of the pro’s and con’s of a decision and the second and third-order consequences is a big part of sound and accurate decision making – and timing is a critical variable. 

Timely decision making comes with experience and thoughtfulness and frankly just keeping the timing of a decision on your “radar”.  Thinking about the “when”, as well as the “why” is key.  A few considerations on when to make a decision include being able to understand the human or situational dynamics of a potential decision while looking at the level of risk associated with a decision, and who owns or shares that risk with you.  (More on this in a future piece). 

So, be deliberate and thoughtful in the timing of your decisions. 

One last note.  Delaying the timing of a decision to let the situation develop or learn more about the context is very different than refusing to make a decision or avoiding making one.  Be honest with yourself and your team about this and be clear on what you are doing as a leader.

If you want to dig into the academics of decision making, I recommend you check out the work of Dr. Jennifer Lerner up at the Harvard Kennedy School (https://www.hks.harvard.edu/faculty/jennifer-lerner). 

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.

The Leaders Playbook: The balance between risk and resourcing

For years I’ve kept a small notebook handy all the time.  The ones from my deployments are worn, stained, and full of rich incredibly insightful notes and lessons. 

I spent much of 2018 and 2019 deployed in the Middle East working with some incredible leaders engaged in the fight against ISIS and terrorism.  As I paged through my deployment notebooks this morning, I was reminded how much thinking we did on risk and resources and the tough decisions that came along with these challenges.

Some lessons I learned and re-learned during this past year:

  • Even in combat, there are restrictions on resources.
  • As leaders regardless of our role(s), we must always be very deliberate and thoughtful on what priorities we are going to resource, and equally clear on what we are not going to resource, and why.
  • Resourcing and risk are inextricably linked.  Leaders must have a laser focus on understanding the various elements of risk and how, if at all, we may control that risk level to an acceptable level. 
  • Be as clear as possible on the type and level of risk you are dealing with; risks to strategy, risks to our forces, risks to our mission, risk of inaction, etc.
  • Oftentimes there are disconnects between strategy and the essential resources that underpin them – which drives risk levels.  Seek to identify those disconnects and work to align resources but be mindful that we as leaders may not control all the dynamics at play.

Making smart, informed, and sound resourcing decisions in a risky environment is hard and gritty work.  Sometimes people’s lives, national interests, or business interests are at stake but making these difficult decisions a fundamental component of what leaders get paid to do. 

The Author is currently serving as an active-duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.